IMG_2075She does it in her own time. Every. Time. She learned to walk in a matter of minutes. She learned to talk when she had something to say… and her first word was even “Self” because she wanted to do everything herself. She potty trained fully with no accidents when she first said, “Wanna go potty.”

We have been battling bike riding for years. She would ride a trike, but when she got too big, we couldn’t get her to ride a bike with training wheels. She was petrified. No amount of begging, pleading or bribing came close to making a dent in her stubbornness. We even bought her her very own princess bike, upon her request and subsequent promise to ride it. For a while she dabbled on a strider bike, rode scooters a bit… but the bike continued to scare her.

I finally invested in a Tag-A-Long bike this year, tired of stuffing her in a toddler seat on the back of my bike, a good 15-20 pounds heavier than the recommended limit and so tall that she had to complete contortionist moves to wedge herself in.

Yesterday she said, “Mom, can I bike to school when I’m in first grade?”

“Of course,” I told her, “but you’ll need to learn to ride yourself with no training wheels first. I’ll help you learn.”

“Ok!” she said, shrugging as if to say, ‘what’s the big deal?’

I cringed internally, remembering the blood sweat and tears from the older three on learn-to-ride-a-bike day…

Today, I showed her how to practice in the grass. She tried twice. She seemed ready for the road. I walked her out and held under her seat to protect her balance. She didn’t need me!

I told her, “You know, I think you’re ready to ride on your own. I wasn’t even helping you.”

Again, the shrug and easy-going, “ok!” And off she went. No, really. Off she went. “I’m going to my friend’s house!” she yelled over her shoulder as she zipped around the corner.

And, just like that, when the time was right for her, she went and learned something new; mastered it in just a few minutes. S.M.H… what a girl…

“Do as I say, not as I do.” It’s the phrase of parents who desire that their children don’t pick up their bad habits; that their children work harder than they did, appreciate more, live life fuller (more fully?) than they have.

This past spring I signed James and Natalie up for t-ball and coach-pitch, respectively. We set out practicing fun drills, warming up arms, strengthening coordination. At first, practice was fun for everyone. Then, kids started whining and refusing and suddenly it was no fun going to the ball field. We got over the hump playing hot potato in the yard with our ball and gloves, batting at all kinds different balls (hitting a football is funny and challenging) and following their lead.

What I fundamentally forgot is that our kids look up to us and secretly watch our every move. They listen (compliance is different…) which is evident the first time your 3-year old says, “Could I just get some peace and quiet here?!?”

I recently started playing on a parks and rec softball team. Last week was our first game and a double-header at that. A combination of nerves, excitement and general rusty skills lead to a batting average of, well, less than desireable. I needed practice.

So this beautiful morning we headed to the park. The grass was wet, my allergies were acting up and I continued to let my no-hitting head game prevent me from improving. Discouraging.

But I can’t quit. I can’t just hope my team doesn’t notice that I will always count for an out. Besides. They keep stats. I have to keep trying.

This afternoon in the front yard I grabbed an old soccer ball and pitched to myself. I was like Babe Ruth of the front yard. Hit after hit, sailing across the driveway. Soon, I had little munchkins wanting to hit, too; wanting to pitch. They all took their turns and it was their idea. They asked me a lot of questions about why I was practicing and why on earth I was using a soccer ball. And we talked about the importance in continuing to try. And that practice is the only chance of improvement. We batted at imaginary balls and we all hit homeruns. We all cheered each other on, high fives, smiles and applause.

I drew on-deck circles for safety – four batters in a small space is dangerous, just ask Jean Segura and his friend Ryan Braun.

Kids. They do as you do, not so much as you say. If you want to challenge my theory, pile up your plate with Cheetos and theirs with broccoli and see who cries first.


That Look She Gave

It was hard to capture the essence of Natalie’s expression in this photo. But it’s a little bit of disbelief, a little bit of love and a little bit of pure pleasure.

You see, some of the best things about spending time at the cabin are the simplest pleasures. We have all the modern conveniences of home, don’t get me wrong, but there are usually a lot of people around and the outside of the cabin is simply much larger than the inside, naturally supporting a lot of outside play.

Prior to this photo, my three littles decided they were going to have a soup and stew contest. I was to be the taste-tester and judge of the contest. James set up a winner’s podium. One plastic lawn chair for 1st, one for 2nd and one for “chicken dinner.” Apparently in contests there are two winners and a chicken dinner – it’s going through your head right now – Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As any good educator of the 21st century would, I gave them formative feedback along the way to help them perfect their soup. “Hm, needs some garlic salt… You could add something green…. That soup is spicy, add some cream.”

When they were finished I carefully tasted each soup (not for real; sand-grass-petal-rock soup is not my favorite). I described for them the depth of flavor their soup possessed and what I like best about it. James and Liberty beamed as I told them about their soup. James began to immediately inquire about who gets #1, #2 and, of course, chicken dinner.

But I still had Natalie’s soup to taste. She had worked separately from the others, gathering ingredients from all corners of the property. She even dumped out her soup twice to start over because it wasn’t good. I commented about how her soup had a hint of jasmine, noting how expensive jasmine is and how she must really care about her soup customers to gather spices and fallen flower petals from all over the world. I remarked how her soup had a hint of the Orient while maintaining a strong down-home-American base. She had very little to say during my critique, except that look she gave me. That look that told 1000 stories, that look the was the direct physical evidence of chains of thoughts rolling around in her head.

That look said, ‘Is she for real?’ Which gave way to, ‘My mom is pretending, right?’ And finally seemed to settle on, ‘This is mostly pretend, with my fake soup and my detailed chef critique, but it’s pretty awesome…’ And she soaked up every second.

So I maintain, it was a look of a little bit of disbelief, love and an immeasurable pleasure. Yes, it was difficult to capture that look in a photo. Pictures alone are supposed to be worth a thousand words, but hopefully this image, with these words can give a hint to the joy that these little things at the cabin make me feel.


My favorite place to be. My favorite cousin. My favorite 3-year old.


This is the only picture I took today.

And I took it because I desired to spend my afternoon watching baseball and drinking beer; eating teriyaki chicken wings and onion rings. Instead, I had a string of unfortunate events that made me crabby and irritable.

I asked Shannon, who inspired me to do a photo per day, what she did when she had a horrible day – she said sometimes she just faked it; or took a picture of her sleeping daughter during that quiet time of night when you get a chance to relax, forget your trials and focus on your blessings.

On the phone with my friend Jessie tonight I said that I had an urge to take a picture of my finger nails, which are adorned with polish in a rare but exciting moment where I haven’t picked it off or chewed my nails but it felt too shallow to say the only thing that made me happy tonight was my fingernail polish. #firstworldproblems

When I really thought about it, I had a friend to email about photos, a friend to talk to about nail polish and crappy days, a friend who talked me through the crappy day (with a smile), a friend who texted just at the right moment with the right material to talk me down, a couple of friends who met me for drinks on a work night and listened to my day, family that loves me no matter what. And I remembered I’m pretty lucky. Even on the bad days I have people I can count on. If I could capture that in an image, I would. But for now, please know, I hold you all in my heart and couldn’t smile tonight without you.